How do you handle behavioral interview questions when not prepared?
Say you are in a job interview and you get asked a behavioral interview question such as "cite a situation when you had to adapt to changes beyond your control" or the like and you had no particular story present even though you might have had that exact situation happen to you. How would you react to such a situation? #career #job #human-resources #job-interview
Thanks so much for the question. Having studied HR as both an undergraduate and graduate student, having conducted many interviews and having been the interviewee even more, I like to tell myself that I generally know what to expect but I've been through enough of these to know there is always going to be some contingency I never planned for.
For example, I've always wanted to work for a start-up and several weeks ago I had an opportunity to meet with the co-owner of a start-up. She asked me something that I never would have expected, "If you had to get an elephant into a refrigerator, how would you do it?". My response was asking her how big the elephant was and the dimensions of the refrigerator and following that by saying "I ask because if it's a stuff animal, I'd just open the door and place it inside." I could tell from the look on her face that pretty much everyone she's asked to respond to this question responded with some long, complicated answer. She just laughed (awkwardly I might.. then again I did too) and we moved on.
A colleague of mine has written a book called "High-Impact Interview Questions: 701 Behavior-Based Questions to Find the Right Person for Every Job". That's right.. 701 interview questions. I emphasize because you will never be able to anticipate every question you are going to be asked. It's a safe bet that you'll probably be asked about dealing with difficult people, etc.; however, The Muse has a list of 30 questions that cover about 90% of everything I've ever been asked in my career:
Now, to be clear, don't just read this questions and reflect on them yourself. Talk them over with friends and especially working adults. Have them ask you some of these questions and give you pointers and tips to improve. For instance, a friend of mine asked me to do this for him and I observed that he tended to ramble in his responses and that he used to many fillers "uh", "um, etc. Identifying those things are important because the better you conduct yourself in an interview, the better your chances are of getting hired (though there are certainly never any absolutes).
So, to summarize, review some of the possible questions, practice interviewing, ask for feedback, and brace for the unexpected. Interviews are no different than anything else in life.
Keep in mind that these type of questions are used to judge your future actions based on what you have done in the past.
The interviewer is trying to determine how you will act in the position for which you are interviewing.
Listen to the questions carefully, and ask for them to be repeated if necessary. Take time before you speak to make sure your answer fits what the question is asking.
Be specific, and talk about your role and what you did - this is the time to shine the light on yourself. If your response involves some type of group project, focus on your specific role, were you the leader?
Remember to state the situation, the actions you took, and make sure to finish with the result.
Good question, something that just about all of us have experienced in one job interview or another. The truth is, you're not a mind reader and you simply can't prepare for everything; just when you think "I've got this!", some interviewer will give you a real zinger!
I think the best way to respond is to be honest, as in something along this line: "You know, before this interview, I really tried to prepare for all sorts of questions, but that one is one I wasn't expecting. It's a great question! Ideally, I'd really like to have more time to think about it, but off the top my head, here is what I would do in that situation....." or "Here is something that I experienced that I think is pretty close to what you're asking....." and tell your story or cite your example. If you're feeling confident, after you respond, you might finish with "Did I answer your question? Anything I left out or that I need to clarify?"
Whatever the "zinger", just be true to your own core values, what you think is right, who you are, and so on. Keep smiling. I think you'll be fine. Be aware that sometimes employers want to see how well you can think on your feet, so be ready for some questions that you haven't prepared for, and be prepared to answer them in a way that reflects who you are and how well you can handle the "unexpected."
Hey, thanks for commenting. I apologize for not directly answering your question. I just wanted to stress that you won't be able to come up with a response for every situation. BUT... you're right... what do you do when someone asks a question that makes it feel like time stops and you don't know what to say.
The one thing you should never say is that you don't know the answer. By that I mean saying exactly the words "I don't know". My rule of thumb is this - When I'm asked a question that I'm uncertain how to respond to, I switch gears and look at the situation from the reverse. For instance, when I interviewed for my first job in higher education I was asked how I would handle a student who was upset about not getting a class they wanted. Now, I had never worked in higher education so it wasn't a situation I'd ever handled, but I imagined how I would my advisor to respond if I was the upset student. In fact, you could even reframe your answer that way which is what I did. In effect, what I said was "Well, if I were the student I would want my advisor to do "X" which I went to explain. Then I followed-up that up by saying I would attempt to emulate what I would someone to do if I were in that position.
Of course there may be times when a question comes at you that makes this impossible. Let's say you're applying for an operations internship at a logistics company and the interviewer asks you how you would handle a situation where the dispatch team is on strike and you've got 40 trucks awaiting further instructions for delivery, and you're asked to fill in as a dispatcher. Enough to cause panic, right? Well, what you do is turn this into a game of Jeopardy where you answer the question with another question by asking questions like "Is the supervisor of the dispatch team on strike?" If so, you could ask who next in line would be and on it on it goes.
To me, the key is not knowing the "exact" technical answer for every question. That's unrealistic and it's very unlikely that's what your interviewer is looking for. The thing to remember is that businesses do not operate linearly - there is always some kind of contingency to deal with whether it's losing a big client, worker attrition, and so on. By asking questions to help you develop your response, rather than just nervously rambling off an answer, shows that you have the ability (and the willingness) to think things through systematically AND that you are willing to seek out help when you need it most. That's the kind of employee I'd want on my team.
It's always difficult to prepare for CBI questions, but i would recommend that you take your time to think about the question before you answer.
Your answer should be a recent and relevant as possible, giving a real example of when you have actually done this activity or been in such a situation, what you did and how it worked out - good or bad! and what you learned from the experience.
Interviewers want to see how you managed a certain activity or situation so remember your example does not have to be work related, so if you are a recent grad for instance and have worked in project teams and can equate the question to an experience you've had at college or in your personal life - then give that example.
You should spend some time in preparing for the interview, by jotting down some of the behavioral questions you can think of, and some questions which you can find via Google search.
Prepare by giving it some thought and preparing your answers, supported with real time examples and scenarios.
Even after doing this, you might come across something which you did not prepare for. Try to answer the question with some examples. If you can't think of something quickly, then answer with something similar you have come across and how you handled it.